When the chirping birds elope to the to the topmost peaks of sedated elms to give wild raspberries a few moments of silence, I stand in the middle of the forest, as if paralyzed, lending both of my ears and at least one nostril to the stammering streams – the mysterious waters, wailing daughters of Volga that fondle pensiveness of stones, laid by generations for generations; streams, that dissolve scenery into clouds of pointillism, clouds that constantly move – drawing, composing, and dancing like stealthy figures of some elaborate ballet.
Everything was in confusion in Oblonsky’s house. Also over by Levine’s, Tolstoy’s and Dostoyevsky was complaining of bad digestion. Red-liveried footman was dozing on the steps. Through his half-closed eyelids, he was watching a slender young woman leaning on the lamppost, chewing sunflower seeds and gracefully kicking her tiny dog in the rear. Grishka (for such was footman’s name) was reveling in the luscious uncertainty as to whether mademoiselle was real, or just a part of his lingering reverie. Suddenly, a galloping man approached, and she thrust her whole being towards him, screaming “Oh, Rudolphe!!!” “No such thing,” yelled back the footman, and started towards them. “What are you, Emma Bovary or something? Get back to the railroad tracks, Anna!” And he shooed away the rider.
“Indeed,” thought Anna, spitting out the last sunflower seeds, and giving the dog a final shove. “I’m not a fictional character. I’m not British. My name doesn’t start with an “E”. Thus she stood there musing on the subject for good ten minutes, or perhaps thirty, or maybe even thirty three, watching Grishka the footman fish out the poor mutt out of the puddle.
About the same time, Ruv Glantzenbaum, a wondering shammis from Podol, was gently grazing the strings of his tallis, rocking all 300 pounds of his dedication to the Almighty on the bench outside of the local synagogue. “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way… in its own vey,” he mentally corrected himself. He had a happy family once – but now, his precious son, his hope and pride, the bubbaleh of the shtibl, Duvid Yankl was leaving for America. Not even America, like the rest of the normal people, but the desolate land, that borders America somewhere on the North.
“Ah Eibishte,” he thrust his hands towards heaven, with the same desperation, much like Anna’s who delved towards a mysterious rider only minutes ago. “Vat shall I do? Talk to me, for once. I talk to you everyday of my life, in the synagogue, and when my wife makes me peel the potatoes, and on the market place when these gnuvin raise prices on cheese…and not word out of you! Tell me what to do, for once, for once, Eibishte!”
At that moment a large cloud right above Ruv’s head sighed with derision. It begun to cough, unwillingly shaking from side to side, like the infamous esrog jelly of Mrs Glantzenbaum. A well-modulated tenor has announced, “Everybody in this world can do tshuva, except for Alisha Ben Avua.” “But that has nothing to do with me!” Exclaimed the Ruv. “Nothing?” echoed the bas kol. “Uh oh. Listen Glantzembaum we know what’s going on. Write a letter to your cousin in Paris, and ask him to make you the nicest suit for your boy. They kid’s gonna put it on every morning and think of you.”
“But I don’t have a cousin in Paris” screamed the Ruv, at the disappearing cloud, and the fading well modulated tenor, it’s accent so characteristic to disciples of New Jersey Day Schools.
The obscurity of life! The tangled coincidences, uncircumcised circumstances, the cross-dressed delusions of the human race! Who is weaving this sticky web of doubts, uncertainties, and guilt? Why, oh why, I ask the floundering spider in the corner of Anna’s room, as well as the Spider Man, crouching in the closet of a Manhattan high-rise. Why can’t you grow wings, learn how to buzz, and pursue the prey of your destiny in the open air, instead of weaving the slimy circles, and begging the cunning forces of the world to send somebody into the darkness of your corner!
“It’s all about clothing. Ah the materialistic velt!” Long bearded chossid kept chiding and shaking his finger at the clouds. His chiding became louder, as he saw an attractive demoiselle strolling by the park near a synagogue. “All about clothing?” She stopped for a minute, repeating his words. “Maybe, I should order the newest suit from that Parisian master, Jacques Glantzenbeux? Betsy Twersky will drool, and Vronsky will run back to me.” “Tworksy? Paris? Glantzenb…” Echoed the Ruv’s as his eyes narrowed with a sudden insight.
Two months later, a purple equipage has halted on the corner of Misanthropoff St. A man in black suit stepped out, drowning his maroon shoe in a heap of dry roadside weeds. “Oh les fleurs du mal, “ he said as he she shook off pollen from his shoes. “Je suis tres fatigue…merci beacoup. Merde. Je ne c’est pas,” he added thus completely exhausting the feeble two-semesters-of-French-in college vocabulary of the author. …. ….
The visitor knocked, and a long bearded man open the door. He was clearly in a meditative trance – his eyes were half-closed, lips moving noiselessly, as if spelling out a strange mantra, his right hand tightly squeezing a huge head of herring. “This must be yours,” said the stranger as he handed over a hefty package, six-angeled stars and the half-soured pickles drawn all over it. “Nah” said the chassid, and quickly added “Nah, Nah Nahman Meeman”. “No oh no really man really not” mentally translated the savvy visitor. “Well then perhaps it’s this one,” he said and gave the man another package, thinner, with an exquisite seal, shaped in the form of a squished mosquito. He then bowed, and rushed back to the carriage. He had one more delivery to make that day.
When Ruv – for dearest reader, you have surely guessed it was him – has descended back to his herring-scented reality, he called out “Duvid Yankl! My son, this is for you. Now you can go off to your Canada.” Duvid Yankl gingerly tore off the seal, and gazed at the content. Inside, there was a pair of world’s finest purple pants, designed for an exquisitely thin female waist, so rarely found in the eighteenth century Jewish shtibl. “What is this?” he squealed.
When the bulging eyes of Glanzenbaum have returned to their orbits, the shammis quickly gathered his thoughts and uttered, “These ummm these eh, these are the pants of the mashiah. One day, you’ll have daughter – perhaps a granddaughter – who will not only fit into these pants, but will also lead the Jewish nation through great wars, into the complete geulah… Ok look, let’s not get carried away. Let’s just say I guarantee she’ll marry a most exceptional talmid chochom, or at least a son of shoyhet.”
Who amongst us mortals can guess the stirrings within the great immaculate, if we don’t even know how to spell the word “herbarium”? Who can predict the ethereal paths of the angels, or the color of demons’ underpants? And yet, as I watch the stammering streams, in the midst of this grand solemn forest I shall say, with utmost certainty, that divine shoulders have shrugged in a fit of a soundless giggle, as two figures walked out into the fresh darkness, father’s hand tenderly wrapped around the shoulder of the son, fingertips of their imagination, stroking the lusciousness of the bright purple future.
A grotesque figure has suddenly appeared on their way – an attractive young woman, dressed in a black bekeshe, five sizes two large. “They did not understand, how I hate the province, may this province be forever damned” exclaimed the woman. “Do you know when the next train to Moscow is?” She asked Glanztenbaum. “Quarter to ten eastern time, he answered. Have a safe trip!”
“Everybody is going away somewhere,” thought our hero. Her, and my son, and their children, all climbing the ladders of the railroad tracks, across the mountains of dust, and clouds of cigarette smoke. They will always hope these tracks lead higher and higher up, to the heaven of success and pleasure, but will never really raise their heads above the half-inch reality of our two-dimensional world. And none of us molecular masochists, will ever know, if the tracks will one day suddenly turn upwards, none of us will know, if kasha varnichkes will be on the menu of the café-car, if there will ever be a Jewish girl, from Canada, Rio-de-Gianerro, or Avenue N in Brooklyn, who will fit into Anna Karenina’s purple pants, who will bring the joy of the geulah into our world, or even to one person – or at least will make that one person laugh, amused by the tremolo of her sarcasm, so typical to our ?wacked?, black-bearded ethnicity.
for more amazing writing from Jake Marmer visit his site www.mimaamakim.org